The Marshlanders is an adventure novel set in an invented pre-modern culture where a newly established money economy is destroying self-sufficient, sustainable communities by draining their marshes for agriculture. The landscape is based on the British East Anglian Fens that resisted the efforts of Merchant Adventurers to drain their fastnesses for centuries.
The heroes, Clare and William, are adopted as children by a community of marsh dwellers and coastal farmers. William’s father, a pharmacist, had been murdered by an alliance of clergymen and apothecaries and Clare, at the age of eight, barely escapes with her life during a public shaming of her mother.
The practical, earth-centered world of the Marshlanders is threatened by the rise of merchants, ministers, and apothecaries. The merchants are buying up lands worked in common and dispossessing farming people to starve or accept employment in weaving factories. The ministers insist that people should renounce their love for the earth and all of their natural enjoyments. The apothecaries, greedy to corner the sale of herbs, persuade the ministers to persecute traditional healers. The three groups form shareholding companies of “Merchant Adventurers” to drain the marshlands and farm them for profit.
The Marshlanders is an adventure novel about the difference between altruistic communities constructed upon mutuality and elitist societies based on greed. The Marshlanders enjoy gender complementarity and a joyous sensuality. They respect an individual’s sexual choices, whether for heterosexuality, homosexuality, or celibacy. They are creatively practical, always looking for new ideas for farming, hydraulics and weaving. Their enemies are sexually violent, pursue technology for self-aggrandizement, and govern by male domination and military force.
Although I use many details from my research into agricultural, fishing and boating techniques of the East Anglian Fens, I am convinced that the historical baggage of an early modern nation state would hamper the clear, swift narrative line I seek. My invented world makes the novel a “Tale,” in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ definition of story whose truth uses our past to clarify our present and our future.
I intend The Infinite Games Series, which consists of The Marshlanders, Fly Out of the Darkness, The Road To Beaver Mill and The Battle For The Black Fen, as speculative environmental fiction, recently termed eco-fiction. My characters confront threats to their community that call to mind contemporary economic and ecological issues.